Qualities for a successful career must be practiced daily

  • Published
  • By Col. Kevin L. Kallsen
  • 5th Flying Training Squadron commander
What qualities or traits help make for a successful career in the military? I do not know if there is a magic combination, but reflecting back on my 23-year career there seems to be some qualities that have resonated with me. 

Many of these qualities I have learned during my upbringing and most have been reinforced by the military. I see these qualities in the people I work with on a daily basis. I try to do them justice every day. 

Here are a few the qualities and traits that I feel helped me succeed to this point in my career: 

Be accountable for what you do. There is no doubt how Secretary of Defense Robert Gates feels about this topic. In the change of the Air Force's two senior leaders, Secretary Gates recently held former Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley accountable for the way the Air Force handles its nuclear arsenal. 

Four of our fusing devises for nuclear ballistic missile warheads were sent to Taiwan and a B-52 bomber loaded with six nuclear warheads flew across the nation without anyone realizing it. Clearly, we as an institution need to take it up a notch. 

It starts with each of us doing our job right every time, 24/7. We need to have personal accountability as well as holding others accountable for their part of the process. No cutting corners, bending of the rules or not following tech orders. 

Bottom line, it starts with the individual Airman (that's you and me) following established procedures 100 percent of the time. We are accountable to the American public and must not ruin the trust they have given us. 

Be honest at all times. Honesty is something that my parents always insisted on and it is an absolute when dealing with others in the military. I remember when I was about 7 years old I found a wallet containing $50 on a sidewalk in my neighborhood. 

I could have easily kept the money and thrown the wallet away but chose not to. I did not return it for a reward; I returned it because that's what I was taught to do. Honesty is something the Air Force stresses as well. Whether you're making change out of a snack bar coffee can, giving feedback to a co-worker or trying to figure out what happened when things did not work out well, it's important that we are honest and truthful in our dealings each other. In many cases lives are at stake. 

It's important to have integrity. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "The supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity," and I have seen my fair share of it in the past years. I have found that military members with integrity are sincere and consistent. Sincerity is behavior that is heartfelt and presents no false appearance. 

Officer and enlisted members that have integrity practice what they preach and apply standards even-handedly. It is essential for discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment. 

Having a good work ethic is vital to a successful career. When I tell someone I will do a job, I do it. I also expect the same of my fellow military members. No one should have to watch over us to ensure we complete a task. I was taught by my parents that it was important to give a full day's work for a full day's pay. 

I see so many members working hard and giving well beyond what is required to ensure the mission gets done. I am thankful for the hard work and effort they put in each day. 

One must be punctual. I remember the first day of undergraduate pilot training right here at good old Vance AFB. My class was gathered in the auditorium in the Operations Support Squadron building and a captain came in for our first briefing. 

I remembered that she said, "If you're not 10 minutes early for any meeting or activity, then you're already ten minutes late." Unless there is an emergency, I aim to be 10 minutes early for meetings and appointments. Being late is thoughtless and self-centered when it happens repeatedly. When it happens over and over, the problem lies in poor planning. Get there 10 minutes early. 

I guess it's no surprise that most of these qualities or traits are encompassed in our Air Force core values -- Integrity first, Service before self and Excellence in all we do. They set the common standard for conduct across the Air Force. 

Perhaps Gen. Michael E. Ryan said it best, "These values inspire the trust which provides the unbreakable bond that unifies the force. We must practice them ourselves and expect no less from those with whom we serve."